Portage and Main adds prestige
D’Arcy & Deacon off to Richardson Building COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE
Winnipeg Free Press, February 8, 2010
D’Arcy & Deacon’s Grant Stefanson checks out the new home being renovated in the Richardson Building in downtown Winnipeg.
Grant Stefanson can’t wait to move into the heart of Winnipeg’s downtown not only because he’ll have a different view outside his window, but because the local business community will have a different view of his law firm.
Stefanson, one of three managing partners at D’Arcy & Deacon LLP, said the firm has just inked a deal to move onto the 11th and 12th floors of the Richardson Building.
The 28,000 square feet of space will enable the firm to continue to grow, but more importantly, it will send a message that it’s serious about being a major player in the city’s legal community.
Most of Winnipeg’s biggest law firms, including Aikins MacAulay & Thorvaldson LLP, Pitblado LLP, Fillmore Riley LLP and Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP, as well as several other smaller firms, call Portage and Main home, he said.
“I think it’s a given that relocating to the Richardson Building represents an improvement in the status of our firm,” he said, noting being in closer proximity to the city’s movers and shakers should also help the firm boost its corporate commercial law practice.
Stefanson said construction has recently begun on the firm’s new space and he’s confident consultations with designers, architects and engineers will result in leasehold improvements that will uniquely define it in the local marketplace.
“Your space is going to have a personality and we’re trying to match that up with our firm’s culture. We have an opportunity to design our office in a way that will enhance our profile and image with our clients and prospects. Hopefully, there will be something there for everyone,” he said.
Some of the features include movable walls that can be put in different configurations depending on the size of meeting and the latest in technology.
Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone, said D’Arcy & Deacon’s move reaffirms the view that the heart of the city is “the place to be.”
“If you’re a blue-chip company and you want to make your mark in Winnipeg, Portage and Main is still the place of recognition in our city,” he said.
Wayne Johnson, a commercial real estate salesman with Royal LePage Dynamic, agreed.
“It solidifies the importance of being at centre ice for many of the larger companies in Winnipeg,” he said.
Johnson, who also authors a twice-yearly report on commercial sales and leasing in Winnipeg, said the addition of D’Arcy & Deacon will nudge the Richardson Building’s vacancy rate down to less than six per cent.
It will also come on the heels of GoodLife Fitness opening up a gym in Canwest Place this fall and accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny trading in its longtime home in St. James for 21/2 floors of the same building last year.
But much of the recent news about Winnipeg’s three skyscrapers — 360 Main Street (formerly The Commodity Exchange Tower) is the other one — hasn’t been as positive.
For example, Richardson Partners Financial lost about a dozen head-office positions since its merger with Toronto-based GMP Capital Ltd. last year and Viterra moved most of Agricore United’s 500 people to Regina in mid-2008 after buying the firm the year before.
It still remains to be seen what will be left of Canwest Global Communications after its financial restructuring plays out, but it’s safe to say it won’t need nearly the same amount of real estate in Canwest Place as it did when it was building the biggest media company in the country.
The vacancy rate for the trio of Portage and Main properties is just under six per cent, virtually unchanged from a year ago, Johnson said. Still, compared to much of the rest of the country, where vacancy rates in Class A space are into double digits, Winnipeg has it pretty good, he said.
D’Arcy & Deacon has spent the last 27 years on St. Mary Avenue, during which time it has grown from 15 lawyers to 42.
Stefanson said he expects that number to hit 46, bringing its total employee count to more than 125, before the move becomes official late this year.